[LINK] NBN on its way to my basement

Tom Worthington tom.worthington at tomw.net.au
Tue Sep 22 08:50:25 AEST 2009

The National Broadband Network organization is reported to be 
negotiating to buy Canberra's TransACT fiber optic network: "NBN Co in 
talks on buying TransACT, Andrew Colley, The Australian, September 22, 

There is a Transact fiber running to the basement of my apartment block 
in Canberra  <http://www.tomw.net.au/links/20020501.html>. So it might 
be part of the NBN within weeks. But this is not without some problems.

Transact has a well engineered fiber ring around Canberra 
<http://www.tomw.net.au/2001/sa/bauhaus/index.shtml#Canberra>. It was 
set up by the ACT Government, being an offshoot of the ACT energy and 
water company. In many ways Transact is Canberra's own mini-NBN. 
Transact has been an engineering success, but not a financial one, which 
may be the fate of the NBN.

Transact has stopped expanding its network in Canberra, partly as a 
result of the cost (which the NBN funding could fix) and part because it 
ran out of places the cable could be run easily (which the NBN could not 

The main fiber is buried, but the smaller cables were strung on the 
power poles along the back fences of older suburbs. This made 
installation easy, especially as the energy company owned the poles and 
already had access. But newer suburbs have underground power, making 
access more difficult.

Transact is a fiber to the node project, not fiber to the home as the 
NBN was envisaged to be. The last few hundred meters of cable is copper 
  (a heavy duty version of the cable used for Ethernet in buildings). In 
the case of my apartment building, ordinary copper cable is used from 
the basement to each home. This was a good engineering decision at the 
time and may still be.

The irony is that while there is a fiber to my basement and so I could 
be on the NBN within weeks, I will not be using it. After using 
Transact's phone, pay TV and Internet service for some years, I canceled 
the service 
<http://mailman.anu.edu.au/pipermail/link/2005-June/062582.html>. I 
found I did not use the phone enough to make it worth having and now use 
a mobile phone. The Pay TV did not have enough interesting programs to 
justify the cost (a high quality digital picture of rubbish TV is still 
a rubbish TV). The Internet service worked very well, but was not worth 
the cost without the bundled phone and TV service. I now have wireless 
Internet access, which is slower and less reliable, but cheaper.

If the NBN provides Internet access cheaper than wireless, then I may 
re-consider connecting to Transact. Perhaps if the Internet is so cheap 
that I can watch TV over the system from around the world, that would be 
an incentive. But if all I get is the same poor selection of Pay TV and 
an old fashioned phone, it does not look an attractive package.

Tom Worthington FACS HLM, TomW Communications Pty Ltd. t: 0419496150
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia  http://www.tomw.net.au
Adjunct Lecturer, The Australian National University t: 02 61255694
Computer Science http://cs.anu.edu.au/people.php?StaffID=140274

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